Water Governance


Since 1949, a series of water related laws and regulations have been enacted, and comprehensive institutions for water management have been established in China. While China has achieved major successes in water management, there are obvious shortcomings within the current water management system, such as a lack of integration among the industries and jurisdictional bodies as well as an imbalance between development and protection. Current institutional arrangements for water are not well adapted to China’s emerging water situation, and do not meet all of society’s needs. China’s current water crisis is one of governance, rather than water itself.
© Lihhong Gao/WWF-China
Director General James Leape met with Minister of Water Resources Chen Lei during the 3rd Yangtze Forum.
© Lihhong Gao/WWF-China

Policy Advocacy

IRMB is the process of coordinating conservation, management and development of water, land and related resources across sectors within a given river basin, in order to maximize the economic and social benefits derived from water resources equitably and in a manner that preserves and, where necessary, restores the freshwater ecosystem.

WWF proposed and co-funded the Integrated River Basin Management (IRBM) Task Force with the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development (CCICED). After two years of investigation, research and consultation, the Task Force submitted a policy report to the State Council in October 2004 that put forward targets, principles, frameworks and suggestions on the implementation of IRBM in China with specific suggestions for the Yangtze River. The suggestions made in the report on strengthening the integrated river basin planning process gained high recognition from the Chinese government. The establishment of the Yangtze Forum was also proposed in the report.

To promote IRMB in China, WWF established an IRBM Expert Panel in Beijing in 2007. The four Expert Working Groups were set up with each focused on one of these four areas: environmental flows, river basin master plan, drinking water safety and climate change adaptation. Serving as a think tank to the Chinese government, the Expert Working Groups conducts research and engages in advocacy in the above-mentioned areas.

In China, the General Institute of Water Resources & Hydropower Planning (GIWP) of Ministry of Water Resources has taken a leading role in developing a new master plan for China’s seven major river basins. In December 2009, WWF-China signed a 5-year MOU with GWIP to facilitate this process. An Expert Working Group has also been established by the two sides. In addition to WWF-China, WWF-UK has also joined efforts to develop a master plan by providing expertise on three specific subjects - river basin planning, water allocation and flood risk mapping. Through cooperation with GIWP, WWF has been promoting IRBM and E-flow approaches and has successfully embedded them into China’s newest river basin master plan.

Pilot Demonstration

Demonstration projects on IRBM at a smaller river basin level have also started. Currently, WWF-China has IRBM pilot projects in 6 key watersheds along the Yangtze River. (on the Min, Jialing, Huoxihe, Botiao, and Heihe Rivers.

WWF began to promote IRBM in 2009 in the upper Yangtze Basin with a project on the Huoxihe River. The pilot project has been working in close collaboration with local communities and the Huaneng Power Company on protection of the watersheds environment, water resources, and forests. A system to monitor the health of the river basin is being developed, with the goal of establishing a new framework for river protection amongst different government agencies.

As the only living river without any dam in the upper reaches of the Yangtze River, Chishui River is considered as an ideal location for an IRBM demonstration project. In November 2009, together with Sichuan and Yunnan governments, the Guizhou Provincial government passed the Guizhou Provincial Chishui River Protection Act to develop a demonstration zone of integrated management of the river basin in Chishui. Later, with the help of the Environmental Protection Bureau of Guizhou Province, an integrated river basin management coordination mechanism was further explored; a commission was also established in May 2009 to coordinate river basin conservation.